January 10, 2014

Taking back what it is to be Irish, Ctd

Brian O'Connor wrote in The Irish Times here:
"That’s not to say nationality is irrelevant to identity, just that people’s ideas of it differ. Admittedly that’s a concept we have a history of struggling with here, mainly because too many people spend too much time insisting the most important thing about them is their own version of Irishness. In real life, the story is always individual."
To many people equate being Irish with being Catholic and Gaelic, as Colin Reid said here. This is exclusivist, ethnicist and racist. It's dangerous. As Conor Cruise O'Brien said here, people have created "recklessly idiosyncratic" definitions of what it is to be "Irish". You can be British and Irish, and as Fintan O'Toole said here, being Irish is not about being not British. Unfortunately organisations such as the GAA came out of a time when being Irish was about being not British, as Fintan O'Toole said here. And on the other side, as David McCann said, "the horrors of the IRA drove Protestants away from a cultural identification with Irishness."

As Brian O'Connor said elsewhere (I covered it here): 
"Being Irish involves a lot more than some uber-Gael, Provo-lite, pub-patriot wet-dream. It always has."
This is something that Irish nationalists need to confront, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Until recently Ireland was largely a Catholic monoculture, intolerant of non-conformist minorities. For as Conor Cruise O'Brian said in his autobiography:
"The southern Protestant - those who remained on after the Treay - had adapted to being a small minority in Catholic-majority state. This was something those who remained on absoltuely had to do: there was no alternative... Those Protestants who "stayed on" had to be very careful what they said." 
It wasn't a plural, diverse, multi-religious Ireland. And as Deane said here:
"If it could afford pluralism, it would not be the Ireland we know."
My blog post on The Huffington Post on being a Protestant and Irish here. A similar piece on being British and Irish here. My previous posts in the series here, here and here. Mt previous post on Sinn Fein being a Catholic, ethnicist party for a Catholic people here.

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